For the second meeting in a row of MXGP in 2015 there was concern and frustration over track preparation. Uddevalla, one of the more reactive and efficient clubs and circuits in the FIM Motocross World Championship and a mainstay site in Grand Prix this century, kicked up dust and dirt as Europe continues to bake in an early summer blast of high temperatures.
“The track needs to be ripped and watered…but I don’t think it will happen,” commented Rockstar Suzuki World MXGP’s Kevin Strijbos in the wake of leading a processional qualification heat and making the best and brightest start to confirm his first pole position of the year. There were ruts and bumps and the soil was looser compared to the unforgiving hard-pack of Teutschenthal, Germany two weeks earlier but riders complained of the lack of options, lines and grip. Perhaps Uddevalla can be forgiven for their conservatism; this Grand Prix has been hit by inclement weather more often than not but the course was simplistic.
Happy for the lack of demand was Red Bull KTM’s Jeffrey Herlings who made good on the MX2 holeshot and rode to his eighth Pole of the campaign. The Dutchman cut an odd figure without his Leatt neck brace but with his recently plated collarbone still tender ‘84’ had enough confidence and speed to hold Standing Construct Yamaha’s Valentin Guillod, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jordi Tixier and HRC Gariboldi’s Tim Gajser at bay. The quartet were never more than two seconds apart and at times it seemed like Guillod was glued to the KTM. It made for a curious but strangely action-free affair and you can only assume (and hope) there will be more intensity tomorrow.
In MXGP Strijbos was also threatened for the lead by red plate holder Romain Febvre but the Frenchman eased off his pressure on the last lap and spoke after the race of studying Strijbos’ line and finding “three or four places” that could work for overtaking possibilities tomorrow. Again the Heat was fairly static with the factory Hondas well placed and only Jeremy Van Horebeek getting worked up about a run-in with Dean Ferris that took both riders down. The two week break didn’t seem to help Tony Cairoli too much as the Sicilian suffered a lack of strength and pain through his left hand; the world champion was twelfth.
J-Tech Honda’s Nick Kouwenberg will be kicking himself for an error that helped grant Kemea Yamaha’s Damon Graulus victory in the first EMX250 heat race. Rockstar Suzuki’s Brian Hsu was again running with the leaders while Wilvo Forkrent KTM’s Adam Sterry didn’t get the start and rode to the top five.
There was as much talking as racing going on throughout Saturday in Sweden; Uddevalla being a traditional site for negotiations and contract confirmation for the following season. Rumours and gossip aplenty but official announcements are unlikely to be made for another month or so, particularly for riders changing teams and manufacturers. The hottest chat revolved around the absent Clement Desalle (although the Belgian could make a return from a stretched left MCL as early as Latvia next week) and his supposed decision to take up the offer from Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team and depart the Rockstar Suzuki set-up that he has been a part-of since 2010. If true it means that Suzuki – already a circle of speculation regarding Sylvain Geboers potentially selling the superb Lommel-based operation with Stefan Everts name increasingly mentioned in connection in some capacity – need to find a replacement to sit alongside Strijbos. Names mentioned for this role include Jeremy Van Horebeek (although he has allegedly renewed his Yamaha deal) and Valentin Guillod but the Swiss is contracted to Yamaha and looking at a best option of remaining in the Standing Construct set-up but with a YZ450F to stay Blue.
The first member of the MX2 ‘Class of ‘15’ was Tixier – the only other rider to age-bump out of the category along with Guillod. The World Champion is confirmed as a Monster Energy KRT rider for 2016 and 2017.
Steven Frossard was sitting idle after dissolution of his contract with Wilvo Forkrent KTM. The union was an ill fit from the outset with the Frenchman bitterly disappointed to lose his ride with KRT to make way for Ryan Villopoto prior to the Motocross of Nations. The British team have increased in profile and support in the last two years and owner Steve Turner insisted that they worked “100%” to back the Frenchman. After their disappointment with a fading Jonathan Barragan in 2014 it was another blow for Turner’s effort and with backing direct from KTM for 2016 it is likely their recruitment policy will be closely reviewed in the coming weeks for the next move. As for Frossard the former championship runner-up was left waiting for contact and affirmation from KRT that he can be back in green for Latvia and it will be a convenient solution for both parties with the ongoing mystery surrounding Ryan Villopoto now slipping into ‘Bermuda Triangle’ territory.